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Daesh evacuation deal from Lebanon border angers Iraq, US-led coalition

31 August 2017

The U.S. -led coalition says it has struck an Islamic State convoy coming from militant-held territory in Syria to meet IS evacuees being transferred there under a controversial deal brokered by Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group.

Syrian state-run news agency SANA said the buses carrying the militants arrived Tuesday to a handover point in the town of Hamimiyah in the eastern Deir el-Zour province.

"Irreconcilable ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield and not bused across Syria to the Iraqi border without Iraq's consent".

"We have obvious concerns, however, for any action that provides ISIS capabilities to shift its forces and thus put more civilians in harm's way", said Edgar Vasquez, a regional spokesman for the U.S. State Department.

He added that any strike will be in accordance with "the law of armed conflict and if we are able to do so and can discriminate and discern the difference between fighters and civilians".

The deal is part of a cease-fire agreement along the Lebanon-Syria border between Lebanon's army and Hezbollah, and Syria's army.

Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the worldwide coalition to defeat ISIS, who just returned from a two-week jaunt across the Middle East including Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and Syria, offered the US stance.

"ISIS is a global threat; relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution", Pahon added, saying "the coalition is monitoring the movement of these fighters in real-time".

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"IS was expelled from Lebanese territory. the border was secured and the western Qalamoun (on the Syrian side) was liberated from the jihadists", he said.

In 2014, ISIS and al-Qaeda militants overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal, kidnapping 30 Lebanese soldiers and sending shockwaves through the country.

The Lebanese military on Monday took journalists on a tour of areas along the border near Ras Baalbek that were recaptured from the Islamic State in the past week. "We will carefully observe and investigate the case", Omed Sabah, the KRP spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday. Remains of several people have been uncovered in the border area, and DNA tests are underway to determine whether they belong to the missing soldiers.

Earlier, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun hailed a "victory over terrorism".

"Iraq should not pay the price for agreements that affect its security and sovereignty", Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri said Wednesday, adding that the deal was "a return to square one".

"I had two choices: either I continue the battle and not know the soldiers' fate, or I submit to the situation and find out". "We came and took responsibility by going to negotiations", he said.

Lebanon's Hezbollah has been a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout Syria's six-year war.

Daesh evacuation deal from Lebanon border angers Iraq, US-led coalition